Skin is the outermost layer and is the largest body organ. It is meant to protect the body against infection and injury. It also regulates body temperature and stores water, fat and produces vitamin D. We will go through skin cancer in this article.
Skin is made up of 3 layers
- The epidermis: the outermost layer of skin
- The dermis: inner layer of skin
- The hypodermis: the deep layer of fat
About Skin Cancer
The onset of cancer is such that a mass is formed called a tumour this is because cells grow uncontrollably. A tumour can either be benign or malignant. A cancerous tumour is malignant, meaning it will grow and spread to the other parts of the body whereas a benign tumour is the one that will grow but will not spread.
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. The development occurs in the areas which are exposed to the sun. However, it has also been observed at places where there is no sun exposure.
Types of skin cancer
1. Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cells are the round cells that are typically found in the lower epidermis. It usually occurs in sun-exposed areas for instance- the neck or face. Approximately, 80% of skin cancers develop from this type of cell. Such cancers are described as basal carcinomas. It is a type that rarely spreads to the body and grows slowly.
Signs and symptoms could be:
- A pearly or waxy bump
- A flat, flesh-coloured or brown scar-like lesion
- Bleeding or scabbing sore which heals and returns
2. Squamous cell carcinoma
Often occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the neck, face, hands and ears. However, people who are dark complexed are more likely to develop this type of cancer in the areas not exposed to the sun. The flat cells or squamous cells present on the epidermis causes cancer in about 20% of people. Exposure to x-rays, skin damaged by burns or chemicals is also responsible for squamous cell carcinomas.
It is commonly found on the lips, mouth and woman’s vagina.
It may appear as –
- A firm, red nodule
- A flat lesion with a scaly and crusted surface
Merkel cell cancer
A rare but fast-growing cancer. It initiates in hormone-producing cells which are situated just beneath the skin and the hair follicles. It is popularly known as neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin.
Melanoma cell carcinoma
It can develop anywhere in the body. It can also develop on the existing mole making it cancerous. Mostly in men, it is seen on the face or the trunk of affected men. In women, it is likely to develop in the lower legs. It can affect people of any skin tone. People having darker skin tones tends to have melanoma on the sole, under the fingernails or toenails.
- A large brownish point with large speckles.
- A mole that changes in colour, size or feels or that bleeds.
- A small lesion with irregular border and portions that appear red, pink.
- A painful lesion that itches or burns.
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are grouped and are generally known as “keratinocyte carcinomas” the reason being is that they begin in a type of cell called keratinocyte. Also, they are known as “non-melanoma skin cancer”.
The treatment of melanoma is different from the rest as it spreads rapidly as compared to others. There are a few rare types of cancers, including cutaneous(skin) lymphomas, Kaposi sarcomas, skin adnexal tumours and sarcomas all of these are categorized as non-melanoma skin cancer.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
- Colour- unusual colour is observed in the spot such as pink, white, black, blue or red.
- Skin lesions- an unusual growth, a new mole, bump, sore, scaly patch.
- Asymmetry- the two halves of the moles aren’t even or identical.
- Border- they are ragged or uneven edges.
- Evolving- the shape, size of the mole is noticeable.
Causes of Skin Cancer
Skin cancers usually occur whenever there is a mutation in the DNA of the skin cells as a result of which the cells grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cancer cells.
Basal cell carcinoma is caused by ultraviolet rays of the sun or tanning beds. UV rays are meant to damage the DNA of the skin cells. Squamous cell carcinoma is also caused by UV radiations.
Squamous cell carcinoma can also develop from long-term exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. It may also be caused by some types of Human papillomavirus.
However, the cause of melanoma is still unknown.
Treatments for skin cancer
- Cryotherapy– Liquid Nitrogen is used to freeze the growth of the cells and the tissue is destroyed as it thaws.
- Excisional surgery– the growth along with some healthy skin surrounding it is cut off.
- Chemotherapy– drugs are taken orally, injected with a needle or IV line to kill the cancerous cells.
- Photodynamic therapy– laser light is used along with drugs to kill the growth of cancer cells.
- Radiation– high-power energy beams are used to kill the cells.
- Immunotherapy– a cream is applied onto the skin to enhance your immune system to kill the cancer cells.
Diagnosis of Skin Cancer
One must examine the body closely and notice the changes in existing spots or growth. If there would be an unusual thing observed or change in texture, size, colour or shape the specialist would check for dry patches, scaling or bleeding and might perform a biopsy.
If an individual is diagnosed with cancer additional tests might be progressed.
Skin cancer stages
The severity of a tumour or cancer is determined by certain stages.
Skin cancer is divided into two primary groups: a) non-melanoma skin cancer b) melanoma skin cancer
Non-melanoma skin cancer includes basal or squamous cell skin cancer
- Stage 0– the abnormal cells might not have spread beyond the outermost layer.
- Stage I– might have spread to the next layer but is longer than 2 centimetres.
- Stage II– the tumour is larger than 2 cm but has not spread to lymph nodes.
- Stage III– cancer has spread from the primary tumour to nearby tissue or bone and is larger than 3 cms.
- Stage-IV– it has spread beyond the primary tumour site to lymph nodes and bone or tissue.
Melanoma stage includes
- Stage 0- the non-invasive type of cancer, not penetrated below the epidermis.
- Stage I – remains small, but have spread to the second layer.
- Stage II – it becomes thick, larger and may have some other signs it has not spread beyond the original tumour site, probably involves scaling, bleeding or flaking.
- Stage III– metastasized to the lymph or nearby tissues.
- Stage IV– most advanced stage, it has spread beyond the primary tumour site to the lymph
- One must avoid tanning beds or sun lamps.
- Avoid sun exposure as it alters the DNA stay indoors
- Wear sunglasses that offer UV rays protection.
- Don’t get sunburns.
- Apply one ounce of sunscreen.
- Examine your skin
- Keep the newborn out of sun exposure